Monday, Feb. 25, was a short legislative day but I had several meetings to prepare for floor work during the week.
Probably one of the real secrets of legislation is how many hours of brain storming, research, and revising are required before we are ready to proceed with a bill. Even now, legislation is being prepared for next year!
Sometimes, even a good idea is ready before it's time. Many times, reps rush into a bill presentation without thinking it through thoroughly. Probably the worst thing that can happen is for a bill to become law and then we find out that it has unintended consequences. Sometimes very important legislation is overturned years later by the courts simply because a phrase or even just one word is out of place or incorrect. We owe it to our constituents to try our very best to present good legislation that is well thought out and properly prepared.
Monday evening the Farm Bureau had their annual Legislative Dinner. We heard from the director of agriculture who gave an update on the consequences of the drought and what might be in store for us this upcoming growing season. Although no one can predict the weather with certainty, we should be prepared for a continued dry spell. Of course there will be exceptions, but overall the next year looks to be much drier than normal.
On Tuesday, Feb. 26, we took up debate on HB34, which is known as the School Construction Act. This would allow school districts around the state the option of adding on or building new structures without having to pay prevailing wages. Many school districts in rural areas are prevented from doing much needed repair because they simply cannot afford the prevailing wage. The option would be up to each individual school board. we passed the bill out of the House and now the Senate must review and debate the merits before they vote.
Wednesday, Feb. 27, was a long day but we did pass some meaningful legislation. Bill Reiboldt was working on passage of a "Right to Farm" bill. It doesn't seem like we need to assert a right to farm or raise livestock, but with outside special interests always looking for a way to press their agendas, we have to ascertain that we in Missouri have the right to raise livestock and farm in time honored traditions.
We also passed HB320. This bill deals with Workman's Comp Reform. As is often the case, there were some loopholes in existing law that allowed trial lawyers to take advantage of situations and bring lawsuits against employees and employers. Some of these litigations were so costly that businesses were ruined and hundreds of people were put out of work. This would be a tragic situation under any circumstances, but when it happens simply because there are loopholes that allow frivolous suits to turn into multi- million dollar settlements that the lawyers get 50 percent of, we need to rethink the laws.
Page 2 of 2 - I've gotten lots of calls and messages concerning the Medicaid Expansion. Frankly, it's way too early to make a decision, but look at it this way; the federal government says that if we raise the eligibility of Medicaid to 138 percent of the poverty rate and add 300,000 people to the list of recipients, they will pay for 100 percent of the cost. The proposal is that after three years, we pay 10 percent and they pay 90. The governor has been going all over the state saying that if the Government doesn't keep it's word, we will remove those folks from the expanded coverage.
First off, neither the governor or the president are going to be around to deal with 300,000 or 400,000 angry people when you take it away from them.
Secondly, if you really believe that the government is going to keep it's promise, find a Native American and ask them what "As long as the wind blows and the grass grows" means.We need to take our time and watch what other states do before we bargain away the resources that are paying for our schools and Senior Services.
Finally, I heard a bill presented in committee that addresses the potential shortages of primary care in rural areas. The idea was that with computers and face to face online services, a doctor could have a clinic in one town and a remote location in another town staffed by a physicians' assistant. If the assistant was having trouble diagnosing an ailment, they could link the patient and doctor in a face to face and the doctor could ask the patient questions and direct the Physician's Assistant in tests and diagnosis. It really is an intriguing idea and sure would help solve the doctor shortage in rural areas.
More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Southwest Missouri in the Mo. House of Representatives. Contact him locally at 437-8223 or at his Jefferson City office at (573) 751-9801 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.